Saturday, December 31, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30, 2016

LIVING SACRIFICIALLY VERSUS DOING SACRIFICES


1 Kingdoms 15:22 (1 Samuel 15:22 LXX)

Then Samuel said, "If only the desired whole burnt offerings and desired sacrifices were equal to the Lord, as compared to one who heeds the voice of the Lord! Behold! Hearing is better than a good sacrifice and obedience than the fat of rams."

Personal Challenge

One of the things that we must always watch out for as we live our lives as Christians is becoming legalistic and works based. Samuel reminds us here, as does other writers in the Old Testament, that God is not nearly as interested in what we do externally, such as burnt offerings in his day as He is in our hearts and our willingness to serve Him. In Eastern Orthodoxy, we have many opportunities to participate in activities that from the outside look like works. One of these is fasting. It is so easy to start acting legalistic and judgemental of others on whether or not they fast, or how well they fast. This is not how this is supposed to work. We do not fast to earn favor with God. We do not fast to look good in front of everyone else. We quietly fast to learn how to discipline our minds and bodies. The church fathers consistently taught that we are not to look at our brother's plate and only consider how we are doing on our journey toward being like Christ. They also taught that loving our neighbor was more important than any rule that we follow so if they offer us something to eat that might cause us to break our fast, then we take it out of love for our neighbor. Love is above all. This way of thinking applies to all of our attempts to be disciplined whether it be fasting, tithing, attending liturgy, praying, or a myriad of other things we do in our Christian life. What is in our heart is much more important than what we say or do. When we live this way what we do will clearly show our love for our God and for our neighbor. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29, 2016

MOUNTAIN MOVING FAITH


Matthew 21:21-22

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Encouraging Words

As presented by the psalmist, we put our hope in God looking to be recipients of His mercy. Here, Jesus is telling His disciples, and us, that if we have faith in Him and do not let doubt creep in, then that faith will produce miraculous results. Now there is a bit of a caveat here. If I am living a life that is truly focused on Christ, striving to be like Him, communing with Him, and seeking to be submissive to Him and humble before Him, then I will only be exercising this kind of faith to glorify Him and to extend His Kingdom. This kind of faith will never be self-serving. It will always seek to magnify God. This kind of faith not only produces mountain moving miracles but it also changes those who have it. They will no longer see many of the things that bother so many of us as hindrances and therefore not use this faith to deal with them. As I spend more time reading the writings of the first and second-century church fathers and about the lives that they lived, the more I see the truth of this promise. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28, 2016

HOPE AND MERCY


Psalms 33:22 (32:22 LXX)

Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
As we hope in You.

Encouraging Words

Hope and mercy, what two powerful aspects of living a Christian life. We put our hope in the loving God. We put our hope in 2,000 years of evidence that God loves us and cares for us and that the Son, Jesus Christ, altered the course of eternity by His incarnation and the life He led leading up to His death, burial, and resurrection. we put our hope in the additional thousands of years that God worked in the lives of His people, continually providing images of the forthcoming Christ. We do not believe that our hope is ever in vain because of Who we put our hope in. And the wonderful and precious result of that hope is the mercy that our Lord pours out upon us. As the psalmist reminds us elsewhere in his writings, "His Mercy end ours forever." God's mercy is complete. God's mercy is all-encompassing, neglecting no one. God's money is undeserved, yet poured out lavishly. God's mercy is sourced from His love, which is the source of all love within us. So, as the psalmist says here, Lord God Almighty we put our hope in You and seek Your mercy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27, 2016

GROWING INTO ADULTHOOD


1 Samuel 2:1-2 (1 Kings 2:1-2)

Now the days of David drew near to death, and he charged Solomon his son, saying, "I am going the way of all the earth, but you must be strong and become a man."

Personal Challenge

We all reach that point in our lives where we must cross that chasm into adulthood and begin to live responsible and accountable lives. For some, this starts when they move away from the nest and go to college. For some, it comes when they leave their home to get married and start their family. There are many other events in our lives that start this process of becoming an adult. It also can happen at many different ages dependent on the circumstances of one's life. But for all, there is a critical time in life when one decides to lay down the former ways of being a child and living a childish life and choosing to live life as a man or a woman. In Solomon's case, this transition came to fruition as his father David approached his own death. David challenged his son to take up where he would be leaving off and step up to the task of becoming a man. David encouraged Solomon to be strong in this process. Unfortunately, in today's society, we have far too many people that are unwilling to adopt their role as an adult and try to continue to live childish lives. We can each use this time of year to review our lives and see where we can step up to being the man or woman that God intends us to live. Glory be to God!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS


Matthew 19:21

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Encouraging Words

So, what does this verse have to do with Christmas some may ask? Jesus was not asking just the rich young man to sell all of his possessions and follow Him. He was asking us all to be willing to give up everything that comes between us and Him in order to truly see the treasure of Heaven. Once again Jesus was not asking us to do something that He was not willing to do Himself. Jesus is God. He is a part of the Trinity. He has been this since the beginning of time when the Father begat Him. He was there when all of His creation was spoken into being. He is the pattern that the human race was made from. He owns the treasures in heaven, and on the earth, and everywhere else. Then on a day over 2,000 years ago He became incarnate through the willingness of some pure, young virgin. He was born in a lowly manger, during a time when the Jewish people were oppressed by the Romans. He grew up a poor man, poured out His love and healing upon the multitudes, and ultimately gave His life for us, all of us. That is truly giving all to the poor. So, it is up to us to do the same... for Him. Glory be to God!

December 24, 2016

Saints of the Week, The Holy Fathers
Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Glorify Him!


Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23, 2016

AWE AND HOPE


Psalms 33:18 (32:18 LXX)

Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,

Encouraging Words


How can the terms fear and hope be used in the same sentence and still be considered encouraging? One of the unfortunate things about our English language is how we have singular terms that mean multiple things. Take the word love for example. In the Greek, you would find love as agape, philio, eros, or storge, which are all different types of love. The word fear has similar variations. In many of the Old Testament renditions of the word fear, what was originally intended was great awe and respect. This is what I believe the psalmist was referring to. God keeps His careful, loving, merciful watch on those who hold Him in great awe or respect, those who have placed Him at the Center of their lives. It is this God, the loving, merciful God that we put our hope in. We hope for His great mercy to be applied to us even though we never do deserve it. Glory be to God!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22, 2016

THE LORD HAS DEPARTED FROM ME?


Judges 16:20

And Delilah said, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” So he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as before, and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.

Personal Challenge

I am sure that many remember the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson, as a young child, was set apart by his parts so that he would grow up being a servant of God. In this being set apart, he lived the life of a Nazarite. Part of this way of life meant that he was trained in the ways of the synagogue, he never cut his hair or partook in alcohol or other debaucheries of the world. As he grew up God touched him in a way that gave him great strength and he performed many great feats against the Philistines who were oppressing his people. All of this is in chapters 13-15 of Judges. Then here in chapter 16, we pick up with Samson falling in love with Delilah, a Philistine harlot. She is persuaded by the Philistines to find out the source of his strength so that they can defeat him and go back to oppressing the Jews. She ultimately seduces him into revealing that the strength is in his hair and after wooing him to sleep cuts it all off leading up to this verse. Not only had his strength left him but so had his Lord. I often write of how my God will never leave His children or forsake them, so how can this be in Samson's case. If we read the entire story, starting in chapter 13, we find that it was never God that had left Samson but Samson who had left God. How often do the temptations of this world turn my focus off of God and onto myself or the ways of the world? It happens all of the time. I then have a choice that I must make. I can turn away from the temptation and remain close to God or I can entertain the temptation and start moving a little bit away from God. Here is where the spiral into sin takes me and pulls me farther and farther from God until it looks like He is no longer with me. He is still there. It is only I who can no longer see Him through all of the mud and mire of sin that I have covered myself with. What is the answer to this dilemma? Call out to my Lord, repent of my ways, and run back into His arms. As the parable of the Prodigal Son tells us, He will be right there with open, loving arms. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016

COMMUNITY


Matthew 18:20

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

Personal Challenge

We are reminded here, by Jesus, that our journey through life as a Christian is not a solo journey. If I desire Christ to be in the midst of my life then I must be in fellowship with other Christians. The Eastern Orthodox teach that I am saved in Christ, but my salvation is worked out in the community of believers who are also saved in Christ. The Western way of Christianity teaches that it is me and my Bible. As long as I have my Bible (and of course the version that I choose) I can determine how God is speaking to me and then act on it accordingly. What is the result of this kind of thinking? A myriad of churches and denominations that cater to individual preferences, Men, and women, who never go to a church because they claim to be in their own, personal church. People who claim to be Christians and reject others who claim to be Christians because of minute differences in their creeds. This is not the way that our Lord wanted His Church to be. He prayed for unity. He told us that we must come together in order for Him to be in our midst. We were created in the image of God, and God, by His very nature, is relational. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20, 2016

UNDER THE WATCHFUL FATHER'S EYE


Psalms 32:8 (31:8 LXX)

I will give you understanding, and I will teach you in the way you should walk;
I will fix My eyes on you.

Encouraging Words

I am never alone! My God, the creator of all thing visible and invisible, has promised to keep His eyes fixed on me. He does not do this like some grand inquisitor watching my every move and waiting to punish me for every mistake that I make. He is watching me as a loving parent watches his, or her, child, delighting in every move they make, hesitating at every trepidatious thing that they attempt, knowing that this is their beloved child who carries their image in everything that they do. This is my God, my heavenly Father that I know watches over me. And He doesn't stop there, He nurtures me. He gives me understanding. He teaches me in the way that I should walk. He does all of this out of His nature of love. What should be my response to this? A life that tries to emulate Him! A life that glorifies Him! This is only possible by knowing Him. To know Him can only be accomplished by knowing His Son, who is the physical representation, the Icon, of His Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

GROWING TRUST


Judges 7:9-11

On that same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. Listen to what they shall say, and afterward your hands shall be strong and you shall then go down into the camp.” And he went down with Purah his servant to the edge of the camp of the fifty.

Encouraging Words

Once again, we see Gideon, that guy who was called out as mighty one of the armies, cowering before the odds that he has before him. This time the Lord tells him to sneak down to the enemy's camp and see for himself what the situation looks like. And as the rest of the story plays out he finds out that the majority of the enemy camp is scared out of their wits about the mighty things that the God of Israel has done through the commander of their armies, Gideon. So, what does this have to do with me and why is it encouraging. My God does not expect me to just blindly trust Him and do whatever He asks of me. He desires that of me, but since He is relational He is willing to let me experience His involvement to the point where I choose to follow Him with full, blind trust. That is how much He loves me and even trusts me. That, to me, is extremely encouraging. God loves me so much and so deeply that He will not force me to do anything against my free will. What a blessing. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on me, the sinner!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18, 2016

RECONCILIATION


Matthew 18:15-17

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Personal Challenge

Once again, the way that we are expected to live as Christians is so much different than the way that the world wants us to live. If we are offended by someone the world expects us to lash back at them, call them names and make them regret what they did. And if that doesn't work, and even sometimes if it does, then the world expects us to tell everyone that we know, and that they know, how much they offended us. The world even gives us permission to embellish the story if it helps to enhance the offense. In our desire to live in the spiritual realm and not the temporal one, we are expected to behave so much differently as Christians. If someone offends us then it is expected that in the spirit of love for that person we go to them privately and lovingly let them know of their offense. We are also expected to assess the situation first and if our brother or sister is not able to accept this correction then we consider waiting until they are able or depending on the magnitude of the offense consider forgiveness without confrontation. All of this takes humility on our part and love for both our Lord and our neighbor. Glory be to God.

December 17, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Paisios of Mount Athos


Friday, December 16, 2016

December 16, 2016

HUMBLING OURSELVES


Psalms 31:23-24 (30:24-25 LXX)

Love the Lord, all you His saints,
For the Lord seeks out truth,
And He repays those who act with great arrogance.
Be courageous, and let your heart be strengthened,
All who hope in the Lord.

Command with a Promise

We are told here to love our Lord and to be courageous and He will strengthen our heart. We are also told to let our heart be strengthened, which implies that the reception of the blessings bestowed on us by our Lord are interactive and not just forced upon us. We are also told in this passage that we cannot expect to receive these blessings from our Lord if we live and act with arrogance. Our Lord desires that we live our lives in humility with Him and with those whom He has placed in our lives. If we choose to continue to live arrogant self-centered lives then our Lord, who knows and seeks out the truth will give us our just rewards. In this case, those rewards often force us into a state of humility. Forgive me, O Lord, for claiming to be Your child and yet living my life arrogantly for myself.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 15, 2016

MIGHTY ONE OF THE ARMIES


Judges 6:12

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, mighty one of the armies!”

Encouraging Words

In the story leading up to this proclamation by the Angel of the Lord, we find Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress. This doesn't make any sense until you read the rest of the story. Gideon is an Israelite and his people have been under the oppression of the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites have been destroying their crops and decimating their livestock in order to break them down. Gideon had found some stalks of wheat and had found a place where he could hide from the Midianites and thresh the wheat for some food. He was actually being kind of cowardly in what he was doing. I can just imagine what he thought when he was told that he was a mighty one of the armies. What armies? Who, me? Why do you think that I am hiding out here? I am sure it was quite amusing. As the story continues we see that the Lord is indeed with Gideon and that he does indeed become a mighty warrior for his people, We too have our Lord with us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, even if we are hiding out someplace from the challenges in our lives that are closing in on us. He will lead us into the battles of this world as mighty ones of His army if we will just let Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 14, 2016

SAVING THE LOST ONE


Matthew 18:12-14

"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."

Encouraging Words

Once again we see that God's way of doing things is so much different than ours as we succumb to the ways of our fallen world, In our way of thinking we would look at this situation and choose to cut our loses. We would think it better to lose the one and not risk the other ninety-nine. In God's mind, the lost one is just as important as all of the others and He will pursue that one in order to bring him home to the fold. Now that is true, unconditional love. Many of the early church fathers felt that the ninety-nine represented the angels in heaven and that the one lost sheep was fallen mankind. Jesus left His faithful flock and came to earth, giving His all so that we would be redeemed. This is such a great love that none of us can fully understand it. What we can know, though, is that God loves us so very much that He sent His son to redeem us and has waited patiently for over 2,000 years so that more will be redeemed before He returns. To God be the glory!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December 13, 2016

INTO HIS HANDS


Psalms 31:1-5 (30:1-6 LXX)
In You, O Lord, I hope; may I not be ashamed forever;
In Your righteousness deliver and rescue me.
Incline Your ear to me;
Rescue me speedily;
Be to me a God who protects me,
And a house of refuge to save me.
For You are my strength and my refuge,
And for Your name's sake You will guide and sustain me;
For You will bring me out from the snare they hid for me;
For You are my protector.
Into Your hands I shall entrust my spirit;
You redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

Encouraging Words

We often forget that King David, the man who slew the giant Goliath as a young shepherd boy with a sling and a stone, was also a prophet. As a prophet, he was blessed to have the Holy Spirit speak through him regarding future events. This passage, as well as the rest of this chapter in Psalms, points to the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ as he approaches and ultimate hangs on the cross. Read this passage as if it were Jesus speaking these words and you will see the prophecy, even to the line, "Into Your hands I shall entrust my spirit;" which Jesus spoke as His final words from the cross. We too, as children of the loving God, can speak these words in our lives as we strive to become like Christ and take up His cross daily. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

STRENGTH AND COURAGE


Joshua 1:6-9

“Be strong and courageous, for you will divide this land which I swore to your fathers to give them. Be strong, therefore, and courageous to guard yourself and to do as Moses My servant commanded you; then you will not turn away from them, to the right nor to the left. In this way, you will have understanding in whatever you do. The book of this law shall not depart from your mouth, and you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may have the understanding to do all the things written therein. Then you will both prosper, make your ways prosperous, and have understanding. Behold, I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be cowardly or fearful, for the Lord your God is with you in all things, wherever you go.”

Encouraging Words

The early church fathers taught that the person of God that was speaking to Joshua here was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Jesus is telling Joshua to be strong and courageous in the face of pending wars and battles because God was with him. Several thousand years later, Jesus, as a human being, would stand before Pilate and His own death sentence and would Himself demonstrate strength and courage, Jesus never asks of us something that He has not already faced when He walked on this earth in a human body like ours. He will give us the strength and courage that we will need to face any challenge. Glory be to God?

December 11, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Maximos the Confessor


Friday, December 9, 2016

December 9, 2016

DESIRING GREATNESS?


Matthew 18:1-6

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Personal Challenge

Greatness! Let's face it, Whether we want to admit it or not we all desire to be great. Sometimes it is at work as we jockey for that next promotion. Sometimes it is in our home as we try to be the one who is always right or who gets to make all the decisions. Sometimes it is in our church or other community of people where we compete with others to show how much we know or to get the position at the head of the table. Here Jesus tells His disciples, and us, that none of these things will give us greatness. Actually, He tells us that greatness is the last thing that we should desire if we want to be like Him. What should we desire then? To be like a child sitting at the feet of his Father. We should desire humility and the ability to put others before ourselves. We should desire God above all else. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 2016

SONGS OF PRAISE


Psalms 30:11-12 (29:12-13 LXX)

You turned my lamentation into dancing for me;
You tore up my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
That my glory may sing praise to You,
And not be pierced with sadness;
O Lord my God, I shall give thanks to You forever.

Encouraging Words

We so often confuse consequences with punishment in our relationship with our Lord. We still live in a physical world, even though the hearts and minds of those who follow Christ have been transformed to try to live in the spiritual world, And since we are still living in a fallen state and a fallen world we still choose to sin. It is the sin that we commit that brings consequences into our lives. Every action taken, or not taken, still has its results. It is these consequences that wake us up to the fact that we have transgressed against our Lord and if we are striving to be close to Him that drive us to a state of lamenting over our sin and mourning for the rift that we have created between God and ourselves. However, as the psalmist proclaims, our loving and merciful Father is there to turn our lamenting into dancing, our sackcloth of mourning into gladness, and our piercing sadness into songs of praise. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on me, the sinner?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 6, 2016

NEVER FORSAKEN


Joshua 1:5

No man shall be able to oppose you all the days of your life, and as I was with Moses, thus I will be also with you. I will not forsake you nor disregard you.

Encouraging Words

Here we have Joshua, preparing to take over the leadership of the nation of Israel. He had followed Moses as he led the people out of Egypt. He had watched the people rebel against God and Moses over, and over, and over again. He was one of only two spies that had gone into the promised land to scope it out who claimed that they could truly possess this wonderful land while all the others scared the people to not more forward. And now, Moses is stepping down and passing the baton to Joshua. What must have been going through his mind? And now, God speaks into his mind and heart these words of encouragement that still ring true to us who give our lives over to Christ day after day. We are promised that no one will ever be able to oppose us in our commitment to Christ. Even if they take our physical life from us, they cannot touch our spiritual life. God promises to always be with is, to never forsake us, and to never disregard us. Now that is the ultimate promise, Glory be to God!

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

SURELY, NOT ME!


Matthew 16:24-28

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Personal Challenge

Wait a minute! You can't make me do that! I am an American! I am a modern, enlightened Christian! Do you mean to tell me that I must participate in that class before I can teach it? Are you telling me that I need to vacuum the carpets after the service or clean the tables after fellowship before I can be recognized as a leader in my church? Jesus, as usual, does not mince any words here. If we want to be counted as one of His disciples then we have to deny ourselves and do what He asks while following Him. Surely, He must be talking to everyone but me? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

December 4, 2016

JOY IN THE MORNING


Psalms 30:5 (29:6 LXX)

For there is wrath in His anger,
But life in His will;
Weeping will lodge at evening,
But great joy in the morning.

Encouraging Words

Our God is not capricious or judgmental but He does get angry with evil and wrongdoing. It is the kind of anger that is encouraging and directing to lead us to be obedient to His will. When we live in His will we find true life, a life that is abundant and pure. And as we strive to live our lives we will encounter those days when the evil of the world presses in upon us and cause us to end our day with weeping. Sometimes that weeping is for our own pain and suffering as we press on against the negative flow of the world, but as we grow closer to Christ our weeping becomes more for those who do not know our Lord, And as we continue to press on this weeping turns into great joy every morning as we begin a new day.

December 3, 2016

Saint of the Week

St. John of Kronstadt



Friday, December 2, 2016

December 2, 2016

STRAIGHT PATH AHEAD


Deuteronomy 31:8

But the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not be afraid, nor be terrified.

Encouraging Word

Deuteronomy finishes out with the transition of the leadership of the nation of Israel from Moses to Joshua, In this transition, Moses encourages Joshua multiple times on who God is and how God will be always present and always active in the lives of the people who follow Him. In this verse, we are reminded that God goes before us and paves the path of our lives. The psalmist repeated this in Proverbs 3:5-6 when he said, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." My God is not some fickle, big man in the sky, distant, judgmental, dictator that has given me all kinds of rules to follow and who never gets involved in my life. He is compassionate and merciful. So much so that He sent His only begotten Son to be born of a virgin, to live His life as a human being, to die a vicious death after living a sinless life, and then come back to life destroying death. Jesus makes my path straight. He goes before me. He is with me. He never leaves or forsakes me. So I am never afraid or terrified. Thank You, God!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

HYPOCRISY?


Matthew 15:7-9

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Personal Challenge


It can be so easy to slip into the mode of being a hypocrite. I know that I must constantly watch how I live my life so that what I do matches what I say. And believe me, I miss the mark more than I hit it. Jesus asks that we be different than the world around us. He asks that we love one another, even those who are our enemies. He asks that we put Him first and that we give of ourselves and our abundance to those in need, such as the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the destitute. It is easy to say that I am a follower of Christ and then go on living my life as if I am the king sitting on the throne of my heart. This is what He was challenging in this passage. This is the ultimate of hypocrisy. It is an entirely different thing to live my life in such a way that I never have to say that I am a follower of Christ, but that everyone I meet in my life recognizes by my actions that Jesus is the King sitting on the throne of my heart. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30. 2016

HEAVEN IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING


Psalms 27:13-14 (26:13-14 LXX)

I believe I shall see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be courageous, and strengthen your heart,
And wait on the Lord.

Encouraging Words

What did Jesus mean when He said that the kingdom of heaven is now? Many of our early church fathers believed, and taught, that the incarnation of Jesus ushered in the new age and brought us into the kingdom of heaven. Couldn't this be an answer to this psalmist's plea to be able to see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living? I, personally, like this teaching because following it forces me to my life, today and every day, as if I am living in Heaven. It means that I must always be looking for, and waiting for, my Lord to appear and show Himself, It means that I can go through my day being courageous and with a strengthened heart because I know that I am alive in Gods' kingdom. It also means that I must look at everyone around me as if they too have been invited into God's kingdom and treat them with the love and respect that my Father would want me to give to my neighbors in heaven. Can I do this? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29, 2016

SLAYING THE DRAGONS OF LIFE


Deuteronomy 31:6

Be valiant and strong, do not fear nor be afraid of them, nor be terrified before them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes before you and with you and among you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Encouraging Words

Life can be tough. At times it can feel like we are all alone standing before a mighty dragon that must be slain. But we who proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior know that He is on our side and will never forsake us. People sometimes challenge me and ask me how I can believe this stuff. My answer is always that I have seen God's presence in my life and the lives of others. As I continue to study the lives of the saints who have gone before me, the presence of God in His children's lives becomes more and more evident. This presence always gives the one who participates in it the strength and courage, even in the midst of the worst, life-threatening situations. We celebrate the martyrs of our church because they stood firm on their belief in God and their acknowledgment of the truth that they knew about spending eternity with their Lord. This is true faith, true belief in our Lord and His love for us. Glory be to God!

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016

WALK ON WATER STORMS


Matthew 14:27

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

Encouraging Words

Every human life will encounter those situations where the storms ensue. Sometimes these storms are just small events that put out a few dribbles here and there but do not even rock the boat. Sometimes they are massive systems that last for long periods of time and threaten to sink the boat and carry us to the bottom of the sea. No matter what the extent of the storms that enter our lives, we, like the apostles in their boat on the storming lake with no Jesus as a passenger can call out to Jesus to save us from the waves, the raging winds, and the vicious downpours. Sometimes, like in this occasion, Jesus comes into the midst of our storm in some other-worldly way. He always starts by encouraging us, calming us down, and showing us that we have nothing to be afraid of. He then reaches into the midst of our storm and guides us, just as He did to Peter so that we can navigate through the storm. All of this needs us to be willing to recognize Him for who He is, to call out to Him, and to do what He tells us to do, even if it is to join Him by walking on water to Him. Glory be to God!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27, 2016

SEEKING GOD


Psalms 27:8 (26:8 LXX)


My heart speaks to You; my face seeks You;
Your face, O Lord, I will seek.

Personal Challenge

David was considered a man after God's own heart. This verse gives us a glimpse into some of the reason for this. David loved his God beyond compare. He gave his all fort his God, and even when he sinned greatly, he always ran back to his God seeking forgiveness and restoration. So, why is this passage such a personal challenge for me? I know the true depths of my heart. I know that I so easily get caught up in the busy-ness of life and the attractions of this world, and so often turn my mind, my eyes, my ears, and my heart away from my Lord. I do this all too often and sometimes delay far too long, returning to Him for forgiveness and restoration. If God was truly the center of my life, my all, then I would spend more time speaking to Him, seeking Him, and fellowshipping with Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

November 27, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Philotheos of Sinai

Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26, 2016

MYSTERIES OF GOD


Deuteronomy 29:28

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Encouraging Words


One of the things about Eastern Orthodoxy that I immediately fell in love with is how we deal with the mysteries of God. So many Christian faith practices spend so much time trying to explain the mysteries that God has given us exposure to. How can God be three persons in one? How can God become incarnate in the womb of a virgin? Who does God really save? In Orthodoxy, we recognize that God is God and we are not. It is okay that there are mysteries that have not, nor never will be revealed to us because only God can comprehend them. I do not have the capability to understand these things. If we continually pursue trying to know and eventually "own" God's mysteries we take the chance of entering into, or worse yet. creating, heresies. The early church fathers were very comfortable leaving the mysteries of God to God and focusing on spreading His Gospel and love to their world. Should we not be doing the same today? Thank You, Father, for the truths that you have deemed me worthy to receive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 23, 2016

GIVING OUR ALL, EVERY LAST BIT


Matthew 13:44

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

Encouraging Words

God created us, all of us, in His image. Part of the result of the fall of man into sin is the separation from God. This separation has created a hole in our soul that can only be filled by God. For some people, finding God and His Kingdom becomes a pursuit. They know that they need Him and pursue Him. For others, they wander through life with no inkling that the void that they keep trying to fill with earthly things can only be filled by God, Himself. These are the ones that this verse highlights. God, in His love and grace, hides in the paths of the lives of these people, great treasures that they might stumble upon and find God and the great treasure that He has to offer. The next step is the critical one for both of these people. Whether we pursue God or stumble upon the treasure that He set out for us in order to find Him, in both cases our only response is to give everything that we are or have in this world away so that we can seize hold of God and not have any obstacles between us and Him. He is the only treasure worth keeping. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22, 2016

LIVING LIFE OUT OF THIS WORLD


Psalms 26:4

One thing I ask from the Lord; this I will seek,
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
And behold the delights of the Lord,
And visit His temple.

Personal Challenge

We are taught so often that the kingdom of God is something that will be here at some future time. Maybe we will see it after we fall asleep in the Lord. Or maybe we will see it when Jesus returns. However, the early church fathers taught us that the kingdom of God is here, it is now. They taught this because it is what Jesus taught. So, if I believe that this is true, then I too can claim as the psalmist did so long ago that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. In order to do this, however, I must live my life according to His teachings and His precepts. I cannot be both in His house and the house of the world at the same time. They are not only mutually exclusive but they are diametrically opposed. To live this way means that I must continually strive to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, spirit, and body. It also means that I must love my neighbor, whether they are loved ones or enemies, as Christ does. This is indeed living otherworldly. Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy!

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016

LOVING MY SPOUSE


Deuteronomy 10:12-13

"So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and His ordinances I command you today for your good?"

Encouraging Words

The concept of love has become so misunderstood and misconstrued in our society. In this age of broken marriages, non-committed relationships, prenuptial agreements, and the such, most people no longer value the concept of unconditional love. This passage was a clear statement by God as to how much He loved His people and it applies to His New Covenant people today. Here is what Saint John Chrysostom said about this passage:

“God needs nothing we have to give Him, and this especially proves sincere love, when one who needs nothing and is not in any necessity, does everything for the sake of being loved by us. So when He bids you to love Him, He then most of all shows He loves you. For nothing secures our salvation more than loving Him” Orthodox Study Bible
If we would all choose to apply this type of love to our spouses, or would be/could be spouses, then we would see a change in our lives and the lives of everyone around us that would change the course of history. It is our choice, not the other's that makes this happen! I choose to love my wife unconditionally for she deserves it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016

HIS BURDEN IS LIGHT


Matthew 11:28-30


Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Encouraging Words

The God that I follow, the God that I love, is a loving God. He asks me to come to Him and to submit my free will to Him. In doing this, He will give me rest, He will take off of my back the yoke that the world has put upon me and place upon me His yoke, which is easy so that my burden will be light. He does this because He is gentle and humble in His greatness. So, why does it seem sometimes that His yoke is heavy and burdensome? That is because it is both the world and my stubborn, hard heart that keeps piling on the burdens of the world. If I will continually turn to Him, every moment of every day, and purposely cast off the yoke of the world and put on the yoke of the King, I will see just how much rest He will give me. I will see how much I can learn from Him and begin to be like Him. I will see how light His burden is to carry and look forward to putting on His yoke. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 18, 2016

NO FEAR!


Psalms 27:1 (26:1 LXX)

The Lord is my light and my savior; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defender of my life; whom shall I dread?

Encouraging Words

So many religions through the history of mankind have been based upon belief in a mean and vicious god. Our faith is not. We see our God as a loving and caring Father. He is our light in the darkness of this godless world. He is our salvation from eternal death. He is our defender against evil. We do not fear or dread Him. Our God is not judgmental as so many faith practices today base their doctrine on. He does not desire to have any of His creation separated from Him, which is most likely the reason Jesus has waited to return. He is the source and essence of love, which is why the only two commandments that He gave us are to love Him and to love our neighbor. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner and forgive me for not loving this way.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17, 2016

REMEMBERING OUR LORD


Deuteronomy 8:18

Then you shall remember the Lord your God, for He it is who gives you strength, that you may gain power, and He may establish His covenant the Lord swore to your fathers, as it is today.

Encouraging Words

I have had the opportunity, and blessing, to read through the Scriptures multiple times. One of the things blatantly apparent is that God never does the same thing, the same way, twice. He always shakes things up and often uses the strangest, most illogical (by human standards) to accomplish His miracles. For example, in the Old Testament, there are never two battles fought the same way. We have everything from marching around Jericho for seven days and then blowing the trumpets for victory to Gideon having to whittle his army down to a handful of men and then go into battle with horns and pitchers over torches in order to destroy the enemy. And in the New Testament, we have Jesus healing the blind in a myriad of ways. why? God does this for two basic reasons. First, so that we don't get haughty and think that we have Him all figured out. This can never be done. Second, so that both we and the world, will clearly know that only God can do what He can do. Only God can treat the blind and the crippled, feed the hungry masses and raise the dead, especially those of us who are the living dead. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016

CHILDLIKE, NOT CHILDISH


Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes."

Encouraging Words

It is so refreshing to know that I do not need to be some grand theologian or sequestered monastic to have God reveal to me His hidden things. Now, having said that I must confess that God has not started revealing His secrets to me yet. The reason for this absence of revelation is that I have not truly approached Him on a consistent basis as a child, Jesus made it clear multiple times that the kingdom of heaven belonged to those who approached Him and His Father with a childlike attitude and demeanor. What is this way of being? This means that we live our lives in total trust of our Father, knowing that everything will be right and good as long as we stay in His arms. It means letting go of my preconceptions and personal expectations of what I think is intellectually accurate. It means living my life loving those around my unconditionally as a child does. This all was evidenced to me this last weekend as I was able to spend time with my two 3-year-old grandchildren and watch them exhibit all of these characteristics...childlike, not childish.

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 11, 2016

INTERACTIVE SALVATION


Psalms 25:8-11 (24:8-11 LXX)
Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He will instruct sinners in His way.
He will guide the gentle in judgment;
He will teach the gentle His ways.
All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth
For those who seek His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name's sake, O Lord,
Pardon my sin, for it is great.

Personal Challenge

This passage tells us so much about our God that is encouraging. He is good and upright. He instructs us in our ways, even when we live our lives in sinful ways. He guides us and teaches us. His ways are merciful and truthful. He pardons our sins. However, what this passage shows is how we should live our lives is what makes it a personal challenge. He is calling us to live gentle lives. This means humbling ourselves before Him, loving Him, and loving our neighbor. it also asks us to seek Him throughout our lives in order to receive all that He promises us. Once again, this reminds me that my salvation is an interactive journey including God, my neighbor, and myself. Glory be to God!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 10, 2017

LIVING WITH CONSEQUENCES


Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Now you shall remember the whole way the Lord your God led you in the desert, to deal harshly with you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He dealt harshly with you and weakened you with hunger, and fed you with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God man shall live. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your feet become callused these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.

Personal Challenge

The story of the Jewish nation after it was freed from Egypt is so full of messages for us today. After God has done so much to rescue these stiff-necked people and started leading them to their promised land, they continued to resist and reject Him. So what happens next? They have to deal with the consequences of their choices, and it is not fun. Why doesn't God just show His love for us when we screw up by taking away the consequences? Because if He did that we would never learn, we would never change. And that is one of the takeaways from this passage, First, there are consequences for my choices and often those consequences are very harsh. Second, these consequences are meant to teach me to make better decisions so that I live my life more the way that God wants me to. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9, 2016

WHO AM I FOLLOWING?


Matthew 10:38-39

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Personal Challenge

Today we are all faced with another historical day. Our country has once again exercised our right to vote, and like every other post-election day that I have been blessed to live through (and there have been many), we are hearing that it is the end of the world or the opposite, that our country's savior just got elected. Either way, our process has worked again, as it has for 240 years. And I believe it is a good process compared to so many others out there. Is it perfect? Far from it. I have, however, had the opportunity to see up close and personal other ways to do this and I am not willing to give up what we have. I was in Thailand 2 months after the military coup in 2006 and praise God, we have never had a coup in this country. I was in Haiti in 2011 when the Martelly railroad ran through the country and once again, praise God that our leaders and system are not as corrupt as they are there. Debatable, I know, but you have to experience it to understand it. I can go on with other countries, but that is not the point. The point is that we have a system that is working better than many others out there. I, for one, believe that I have been blessed to be able to live where I do and when I do. And that blessing for me goes back many generations. As I have been working on my ancestry, I have found that over 90% of my 9th Great Grandparents were born here on this great pre-American soil. Their parents came here as the first settlers of this vast country. We are talking about the mid-1600's, 176 years before the foundation of our country. That is some pretty deep roots. What I am learning from this election cycle is to be thankful for the heritage that we have here and to trust the system, At least we have the opportunity to work within the system, even if it takes the rest of our lives to affect any change. The other and the most important lesson in all of this is that I must always remember that my true citizenship is not of this world and that my real responsibility in my life is to take up my cross, moment by moment, and follow my Lord. That is where I will find true life, true liberty, and true peace. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 8, 2016

ON THE TRUE PATH


Psalms 24:4-5 (25:4-5 LXX)

Make known Your ways to me, O Lord,
And teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation,
And on You I wait all the day.

Encouraging Words

I love how the randomness of how I choose the verse of the day never really appears to be random from where I see it. All too often the verse that comes up fits so well in the events that are going on, or that have just transpired. The Word of God is living and true and if we keep the eyes to our heart and mind open to our Lord we will see how His Word speaks into every aspect of our lives, every moment of the day. Today, as our country goes to the polls to elect our next president, this passage rings so true. It is our God, and only our God, that can make His paths known to us. He is our great Teacher. And if we submit our lives to Him, and more importantly our wills to His, then He will lead us in His truth. We are so blessed to live in a country and a time where we can express our opinion on who should lead our country, but no man or woman can truly lead us on the true path of righteousness and salvation. Only God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can do that. Glory to Him and Him alone.

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7, 2016

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE...


Deuteronomy 7:9-10

Therefore know, the Lord your God, this God, is a faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with those who hate Him; He will repay them to their face.

Encouraging Words

I have always liked the first part of this passage because it promises that if I love my God and keep His Commandments, then not only will I be blessed with His mercy and love but so will by offspring, for a thousand generations. If nothing else, this gives me a reason to love and follow my God, so that my children, their children, and on and on will be touched by my Gods' love and mercy, Why would I choose to give the generations that follow in my footsteps any less? The second half of this passage also tells me a lot about my loving God. If anyone chooses to deny Him, He promises to deal with them on their own decision. He does not visit this error on the offspring of the defiant one. However, as with everything in our lives as parents, we play a significant role in the formation of our children. Choosing to live a life defiant of God sets our children up to do the same, just like choosing to live our lives full of negative and destructive behaviors sets our children up to do the same. For me, I choose to live for the Lord, for Him and for my children.